Software-driven lighting controls are not a new concept, however. Manufacturers have offered various flavours of networked lighting solutions for decades. Perhaps because of this, many in the lighting industry believe these types of solutions will always be too expensive, too difficult to install, or impractical for everyday applications.
But technological advances are both constant and relentless. Even if you don’t subscribe to Moore’s or Haitz’s Law, you can’t deny the exponential price and performance gains that continue to be made by solid-state components. Inexpensive processors, reliable wireless networks, and powerful software platforms now allow us to imbue physical devices with unprecedented amounts of intelligence. What was once the stuff of dreams is now both achievable and economically feasible.
The world seems to have reached a tipping point. Whether it’s fly-by-wire quadcopters, smart thermostats, or self-driving cars, every aspect of our physical world is being transformed by rapid and persistent advances in technology.
So what does this mean for the lighting industry? Across the board, incumbent and upstart manufacturers are crafting solutions with the intent of doing far more than controlling photons with more precision. Examples of this include equipment fault detection, advanced sensor networks, indoor location tracking, and integration with other building systems such as security, life safety, and HVAC.
As a platform for supporting new types of applications, this makes incredible sense. Lighting is ubiquitous, connected to constant and reliable power, typically installed with uniform spacing, and affords a unique, bird’s-eye view into our homes, facilities, and outdoor spaces. Why wouldn’t we utilize our fixtures as a host for other types of sensors and devices? And if you’re building a lighting network, why not leverage it as a backbone for other types of communication and uses?
Advances in solid-state technology cut the lighting industry both ways, however. The innovation which makes possible inexpensive and powerful microprocessors has also led to rapid commoditization of the LED fixture market.
So how do software-driven, networked lighting controls get deployed at scale in an era of constantly decreasing fixture prices and global competition? No matter how effectively and inexpensively it’s done, there will always be additional upfront capital costs.
Strategies in Light (SIL) speaker JASON HANNA of Digital Lumens explains the potential of networked lighting controls and urges solid-state lighting (SSL) industry professionals to delve into the technology for forward progress in lighting. If we’re to succeed, many believe we must become better at articulating the power of the network. We must position ourselves as providers of something more than cost-effective lumens. To achieve this we must be able to quantify and describe the importance of networked lighting and its ability to solve problems that go beyond the lights.
JASON HANNA, director of software products at Digital Lumens (digitallumens.com), will be speaking at Strategies in Light (Santa Clara, CA) in the Smart Lighting Track session “The Power of the Network: The Hidden Benefit of Lighting Controls” on Wednesday, March 2, 2016.